Dane Spurrell, 18, of Mount Pearl was stopped by an RNC patrol on Saturday night while he was walking along Topsail Road. Spurrell told CBC News on Tuesday the RNC assumed he was drunk because of his appearance and how he walks.
RNC Chief Joe Browne said Wednesday that while he does not yet have all the facts in the case, he will ensure that the force enhances its training so that it does not happen again.
Spurrell was held in custody overnight and released after his mother, Diane Spurrell, called to report that her son was missing. When informed that he was in the downtown lockup, she told the RNC that her son is autistic.
Browne said while such an incident has never happened before, he pointed out where he thought the confusion may have started.
“It’s not uncommon, actually, for people, depending on the level of autism, sometimes to be confused with somebody who may be under the influence of a substance, which appears to the case in this particular event. So we’ll be looking deeply into that,” Browne told CBC News in Labrador City.
“I’ll be talking to both the young man and the young man’s mother to ensure they understand our position and that we can apologize for the discomfort we’ve caused,” he said. “But other than that we have to look at ensuring there’s greater awareness around this so that these things don’t happen.”
Dane Spurrell said earlier this week that officers may also have thought he was intoxicated because he resisted his arrest. He maintained that he had done nothing wrong.
Jason Geary, who works with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Autism Society, said Spurrell’s arrest should never have happened.
“We were appalled, and the incident we feel was definitely preventable,” Geary said Wednesday.
“We definitely think that, going forward, we don’t have to have a repeat of this.”
Coincidentally, Geary said, the RNC had contacted him last week, before the arrest, to talk about a training program for its officers.